SXSW Review: Creep


The found footage horror film is about as interesting right now as a pigeon in New York city. They’re everywhere, they’re annoying and they poop on everything. That’s why Creep sounds on the surface almost completely uninteresting. A found footage style horror movie about a creepy guy doesn’t really sound like its going to blow anyone away. In fact it sounds like almost every other found footage/handheld horror movie we run into. 

Creep works though, and it works really well. In an ocean of movies that appear the same, Creep is something different. 

Director: Patrick Brice
Rated: R
Release Date: TBD 

The premise is incredibly simple. Aaron ( writer/director Patrick Brice) is called up to Josef’s (Mark Duplass) house to do some video work for him. He’s told that Josef is about to die and wants to document his life for his unborn son. You can tell that Josef is a little weird right from the start, but it’s entirely plausible he’s just a weirdo so Aaron sticks around to film. Most of Josef’s antics lean more towards comical than terrifying anyway. Things get progressively darker as Aaron finds himself trapped with Josef and making decisions well beyond the point of reason that normal person would (always an issue with found footage stuff). 

It’s this slow build that makes creep go from odd to truly scary. We’re never quite sure what we’re watching and that makes Creep even creepier. Is Josef a killer or just a creepy dude who needs some help? While you’re pretty sure its a horror film it plays as a comedy as well, and as the movie unfolds you’re not quite positive if there actually is going to be any true danger. Maybe Josef really is just a troubled dude looking for a friend. Even the title is ambiguous enough to go either way. The film’s ability to keep that question in the air until the very end is what makes it really scary. Uncertainty of what comes next is what makes a truly great scare. In fact, since the entire cast is only Brice and Duplass this uncertainty is necessary to keep their relationship and the film interesting.

Duplass hitting creepy dude square on the head doesn’t hurt either. His Josef is right on the border between insane and just odd and he balances it perfectly. It’s that super friendly kind of thing that makes him work so well in comedies and yet here turns into a pitch perfect weirdo. As Josef routinely tries to scare Aaron by jumping out and shouting boo you feel more sorry for him than afraid, and its this performance that leads to the aforementioned uncertainty and makes the film what it is.

Of course Creep falls into many of the same traps that all horror films do. Aaron is kind of an idiot and makes some horrible choices when hanging out with a guy who is seriously creeping the fuck out of him. Most of us would be out of there in about ten seconds flat once things in the film veer away from comedic, but for some reason Aaron is a bit more trusting. He also aggravatingly doesn’t call the police until way too late and when he does their brush off is so far fetched its ridiculous. But scary movies wouldn’t work if dumb choices weren’t made and Aaron’s trust of Josef is actually one of the things that lends to the overall fear inducing ambiguity.

In a flood of films that look the same Creep stands out thanks not only to a strong performance from Duplass, but by keeping to its simple premise and keeping the viewer always guessing. While other films try to scare our pants off Creep is content simply creeping us out, and is thus all the more scary. 

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.